WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Archbishop O'Leary High School students led the way during most of the Way of the Cross.
Bundled up in tuques and warm coats, several hundred people defied the cold, snowy weather and attempted to take to Edmonton’s inner city streets on Good Friday to commemorate Jesus’ death and pray for an end to injustice.
However, organizers decided the streets were too slippery and held the entire procession in the block in front of Hope Mission, Edmonton’s largest emergency shelter, at 9908-106 Ave.
Be Not Afraid was the theme of the 34th annual Way of the Cross, which saw people pray at each stop for an end to the injustices and a betterment of the lives of the poor and vulnerable. It was mostly students from Archbishop O’Leary High School who carried the cross from one stop to the next.
Speaking at Station 3, which was to have taken place in front of the Court House, human rights activist Rob Wells said, “We pause here to reflect on the many failures of our justice system,” which he noted have been numerous.
“In 1959, our courts sentenced an innocent 14-year-old boy to be hanged. It took 50 years before Steven Truscott was finally exonerated,” Wells said.
“In 1967, our Supreme Court upheld the indefinite prison sentence for my fellow worker Everett Klippert for simply being gay.”
In 2004, Wells said, court guards bashed 16-year-old Kyle Young through an elevator door to his death five floors below.” No one was held accountable.
But there is hope for change, Wells said. “Jesus taught, ‘Whatsoever you fail to do to these, the least of my brethren, you fail to do unto me.’”
Added Wells, quoting a local bishop: “The Gospel calls those of us who claim to be disciples of Christ to stand on the side of those our world would victimize, to risk our lives for justice and to do it quite publicly.”
Speaking at Station 4, which would have happened at the Homeless Memorial, Sister Mary Clare Stack, who runs the Welcome Home program for Catholic Social Services, said the sculpture serves as a poignant reminder that last year “40 to 50 of our homeless sisters and brothers” died because of violence, illness or our bitterly cold weather.
However, Stack shared good news, reporting that in recent years 2,178 permanent homes have been secured for 2,909 people who had been homeless.
“Let’s celebrate the 85 Welcome Home volunteers who are providing 55 newly housed Edmontonians with companionship and fun,” she said.
“Let’s celebrate that 84 per cent of our sisters and brothers who have been housed have retained their house. May we always see in the face of our homeless sisters and brothers the face of our brother Jesus who awaits us in our eternal home.”
Students from The King’s College spoke at the fifth station in front of the Reuse Centre.
“We are entering into a time of crisis and a forgetting of God’s creation,” lamented student Miriam Mahaffy. “Our indifference to the environment and our participation in larger human structures that outstrip natural resources and the environment’s capacity to buffer pollution are wreaking havoc on our earthly home.”
The solution, Mahaffy said, is to reconcile our lives to Christ and with creation. “We can fulfil our mandate to care for creation by remembering it, our place in it, and to do so justly with our neighbours worldwide who depend on it.”
Cathy Harvey brought most of her family to the Way of the Cross. “We have to show support to the poor and the vulnerable as Jesus did.”
Taisie Gado said she attended the annual procession “because it is in the inner city and this is a place that needs support and prayer.”
Organizer Linda Winski estimated 450 people attended the Way of the Cross. “We didn’t want to cancel because this is an important tradition,” she said. “It worked well, though; it still allowed us to do our reflections.”